Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


Dodging The Tar Pit

It is rewarding to watch publishing companies (albeit university presses in this case) detect the axe as it hovers over their complacent necks and do something to prevent obsolescence and extinction. Five university presses (including Rutgers’s and NYU) are pooling their resources to cut down on production costs in order to publish more books. Granted, a Mellon Foundation grant plays an essential role in this because it finances the creation of the partnership but it is still refreshing to see folks in business chew gum and walk at the same time. Now all we’ve gotta do is get the motion picture industry and record companies on board before the tar pit grows large enough to swallow up all things cumbersome, large, and stupid.


So, More Ham-Fisted Attempts At Social Networking Sites Now?

The Netscape browser is officially over. I’m not as surprised and appalled as many of the folks commenting on the bit of news are but I’m not terribly optimistic about the future of Netscape sans browser to steer people towards their crap, um, portal. Any guesses as to how long it will take before the whole whatever the hell Netscape is these days collapses and disappears completely?


Two Rather Extended Reads That Are Well Worth Your Time

This is another bit of the post that broke everything and made the little children cry. I'm hacking it into pieces and the breakage seems to be absent. I'll reluctantly call that a victory although I'm not certain what/who my antagonist actually is. Anyway:

First of all, go read this article about the craziness that surrounded an attempted implementation of Radical Athleticism at Oberlin College in Drexel's The Smart Set. It is on the long side but covers so much territory and (necessarily) bounces around during the course of telling the story that it sometimes confused me but proved in the end to be worth the rereading. If you're at all interested in how sports can become a topic of impassioned discussion at one of those damned hippie schools then this is worth your time:

Turns out that Oberlin athletics was once run by a man Spiro Agnew called an “enemy of sport.” Turns out that for two years, Oberlin College carried out an earnest and lunatic revolution in collegiate sports. They call it “The Oberlin Experiment,” the only college sports program that ever tried to implement a plan according to the tenets of radical athleticism.

The strange and terrible part is that the author of the article who both studied and taught at the school (including some involvement with the athletic curriculum) didn't know anything about any of this before digging around for information. I've become a huge fan of the Smart Set for consistently putting truly interesting writing and topics out there for public consumption.

If you survive that then take a stab at Roger Rudenstein's defense of classical music as something worth preserving and promoting. I agree with little of it but he presents a fascinating and incredibly frustrating argument and some ideas about how his advocacy might be acted upon. I had a hard time getting through this at times and a harder time swallowing some of his analogies and oft twisty logic but it was a fun sort of frustration. The twisty logic has a lot to with his defensive of classical music being a thing apart from the public perception of it being the music of elitist aristocrats (his term there) but still unable to take other kinds of music very seriously in either intent (intended to make money which is, other than exception of radio payola jockeys, laughably incorrect) or content (he's a big fan of melody and structure and seemingly little else). It was a struggle and pissed me off more than once but it is an opinion born of passion and deeply caring about the subject matter no matter how little anyone else does.

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If Only We Could Wipe GeoCities From Our Collective Memory This Would Not Be So Funny

Old Style Web Design - your 2.0 project running too slowly? Simplify by returning to the glory days of tiled backgrounds and GIF animations. They get extra comedy points for the inclusion of the dreaded and greatly missed 'Under Construction' graphic on all of the other pages. I had to read it more than once to make sure that it wasn't a serious if misguided attempt at cashing in.

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Blaming Anyone But Myself Feels Infinitely Better

I just finished an uber-frustrating round of troubleshooting on this site and really don't have a good answer other than 'Don't post that one.' For reasons I completely fail to understand a post I composed at work was triggering a 403 error every time I tried to post it regardless of whether I used the web interface or XMLRPC to post it. I assumed (from the error) that something was colossally fucked with my server configuration.

Nope. It was the post. Any of y'all ever seen defects like this? I read back through the post and made sure all of my brackets were closed and what not but even some syntax highlighting text editor perusal failed to bring anything that broken to my attention. I'll probably figure it out mere minutes after posting this..

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Welcome To The Depressing Future Of Social Interaction

I’m pretty much clueless about the world of online dating or marriage arranging or whatever the fuck it is billed as these days. I’ve heard that some of my not-so close friends have mucked around in it with varying degrees of success but it creeps me the fuck out. It seems like another layer of separation between busy people and some kind of functioning social world that doesn’t involve commonalities derived from a list of interests and a credit card number thrust into the void and driven by desperation. Maybe I’m too cynical. And spoiled. Nonetheless, this NYT article about the advertising strategies of two dating services only added to the creepy feeling I get when I see those banner ads. The crushing feeling of ick doesn’t come from the actual services rendered (except for right now after typing that. Ick ick ick.) but rather from the excuses eHarmony is making to avoid matching same sex couples or anything other alt sexual preferences it doesn’t deem appropriate for bible humping Eugenics:

EHarmony’s matching system is based on psychological data collected from heterosexual married couples, and we have not offered a service for those seeking same-sex matches.

I know that even using the term eugenics in this situation was hyperbole but considering the quote above I will withhold any further assumption of exaggeration. Now I will seek out soap and scour off some of this ick.

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The Cafeteria Has Exhausted Their Shit Sandwich Supply

I started a new job. I actually started working there a couple of weeks ago but I’m getting ready to return from vacation days and realized that I’ve been completely silent about it. This seems especially heinous since I whined about my job seeking difficulties more times than anyone would ever want to read about (this includes real life friends who might care about something other than my ham-fisted attempts at making technology do what I think it ought to) and hit more than a few of you up for useful advice, good lies to tell, and as references. I like the new job. For the obvious reasons I’m not going to mention the specifics because I like the new job and don’t wish to be forcibly ejected from it after saying something stupid.

The real key to this workplace success (begin the unrolling of motivational posters and cue the shitty oh-lift-us-up-where-we-belong music here) is that people leave me the fuck alone and let me get my work done which is great since I’m doing work for them as opposed to some hallucinatory bottom line or the greater good or whatever other insipid concept was most recently hatched at a management conference. There seems to be a clear connection in most people’s heads between me having the space and time to accomplish real work and the reduction of computer related misery. Jesus. What took common sense so long to get here? I suppose that the mere act of hiring someone to RTFM for you assumes certain entitlement issues but I’m pretty happy for the moment.

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The Definition Wasn’t Entirely Wrong

Since I'm setting up a huge amount of new workstations, need to use IE as Charon's ferry from the world of the living to the dark regions of Windows Update, and tend to read if not absorb text that flashes before my eyes, a lot of news bits I wouldn't ordinarily seek out have crossed my periphery. The only one that has made me chuckle so far today is the accidental inclusion of Windows Explorer in Kaspersky's virus definitions. The inaccuracy of this is arguable and I would actually consider purchasing a product that effectively quarantined explorer.exe. Maybe it's time to break off that chunk of functionality and market a brand new product? The down side is that it hosed machines that were set to delete infected files rather than quarantining them as you're not doing a whole lot in a Windows environment without explorer. Good stuff.


Things I Usually Avoid Thinking About

I've mentioned that I'm diabetic here before but it isn't something that typically crosses over between the realms of being parked in front of a keyboard for most of my functional hours and the dreaded need for paying close attention to things that most people just plain fail to notice that creeps into all areas of life that don't focus on machines. Anyway, I started using SugarStats recently and thought it was worth mentioning here.

SugarStats is one of the few tracking solutions that I'll stick with for any extended period of time. I've tried other methods of keeping track of things from dead trees to desktop applications but they are all kind of a pain in the ass or require a certain thing to be in my possession all the time. Web accessible tracking takes a lot of the tedium out of the process and yields a lot of bonus effects as an aside. One of the super handy functions is that you can submit data via email or (if you're insane) via Twitter. The other compelling function is the public availability of your stats (obviously optional if only to stay HIPAA compliant and out of legal difficulties) which makes presenting data to a doctor much simpler and doesn't entail dragging a paper source in for office visits.

There is also a paid version of SS that banishes the advertising and allows submission via glucose meter and other niftiness. I'll probably pass on that but I'm actually excited to try a tracking method that fits my geeky lifestyle. Cool part is that I haven't messed with a number of the available stats yet and I'm sure I'm still missing some cool functionality that I won't know about until I actually need it.


Shameful Admission Of Like

I'm loathe to admit that I really like Windows Live Writer but it's true. It is a really well done piece of software with far fewer creaks and jostles than I would expect. If MSFT could extend that to other applications and/or make commitments to less feature-ful and more use-specific (that term is so fucking lame that it ought to be expressed in UML or something) pieces of software I could actually be interested in some of what they have to offer. Luckily, that will never be the case so I can merrily post away on my work laptop with little concern about the tech equivalent to my eternal soul.

If you're stuck on the platform it's well worth checking out, free, and works with WordPress and other non-Microsoft blogging platforms.

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Media Change, Sorta

With all the Kindle hype we've all endured recently (and I've seriously considered a future purchase of one) and all the babble that speculation on the impact this might have on the readin' and writin' industry, I've probably spent more time in the consideration of books, conceptually as opposed to the title-to-title thinking that usually dominates brain cycles, in the past month than I ever have.

Thinking about books instead of actually reading them typically yields grim results for me. This is especially the case when I attempt to write about them here. Part of the insta-failure has a lot to do with the consideration of an audience that does not exist and another with getting myself all entangled in the snarls of more formal criticism of anything that isn't software. The point here is that I read constantly but write little about it, at least here. During my huge span of unemployment when I had more bonus time than I've had in my entire life my reading habits changed for the infinitely worse and only now are beginning to recover. The symptoms were typical: reading only when on public transportation, reading only genre fiction or books that I've read dozens of times before, and generally laziness towards reading for extended periods of time.

Now that I actually have a job and am not spending large amounts of what could otherwise be idle time stressing out and reloading Craigslist every 45 seconds I've gravitating back towards spending more free time reading. One distinction that I really needed to make was between reading from one of my computers and reading dead tree books. This is the line that the Kindle blurs somewhat and makes more more cautious about even considering it for a potential wish list item. The ease of distraction when reading text from a computer is obvious and it doesn't necessarily make for a focused platform for reading huge chunks of text that necessitate both concentration and the ability to return to the text at a later time. The only time that I've successfully read long pieces of writing on a computer is when that computer is not connected to the internet. The Kindle is perpetually connected to some kind of internet access. I've reluctant to count that as a strike against its value since, you know Free IntarWeb and all but it does count against its value as a dedicated reading terminal. 

All of that said, I've returned to the habit of just reading again. It's stupid and simplistic enough to make me think that I'll soon be astonished by sliced bread and flushing toilets. I knew that it was a better idea and follows all of the conventions for success in study but I'd nearly forgotten how rejuvenating it is to just sit and read for several hours without interruption. I need to not forget the feeling of composure that extended reading gives me and what a powerful antidote it is to the feeling of perpetually scattered thinking that comes along with having your attention span artificially segmented by all of your crap that beeps. I'm going to try to do all of my reading offline for a couple of weeks (excepting newspapers because they're stupid) to see how it effects the reading that I do online. I'll venture a guess that it will improve my attention span for individual items and also force me to actually read them instead of skimming and substituting.


What To Do Until They Can Be Formally Charged And Executed

StupidFilter is magical on myriad levels. The aim of the project is the creation of:

an open-source filter software that can detect rampant stupidity in written English. This will be accomplished with weighted Bayesian or similar analysis and some rules-based processing, similar to spam detection engines.

This is the sort of thing I can support unconditionally because, if you've squandered any of the precious moments of your life wading through the crap-cano of text lingo attached to nearly anything these days, we need some help thinning the sick and annoying herd.

The startling part is that they're actually trying to release something and using a subjective pointed system to suck in some of the raw sewage of user content and deduce aggravating behavior from its persistent usage. Will it happen? It should already be in wide use. This December is the projected drop date for an alpha release of something. Even if it is entirely a practical joke it's clever and I'll keep looking for an end result even if that result is a joke I'm the butt of.

You can sample some of the spill over from howling wasteland of IntarWeb and how the rating system works by hitting the random sample link. This also serves as powerful propaganda to remind us that typing a hundred abbreviated versions of something followed by two dozen exclamation points takes valuable energy that could be used for other things like digging a mass grave for the culturally adapted lingo of your generation. Support this project in any way you can and help kick off the grave digging personally.


You Just Add Lye…

I'm as curious as the next about what the tabulated results will be for Spam Filter Free Day but I'd really rather see the evidence gathered in a less painful way. Mainly because it reminds me a little too much of this.

Anyone participating? I get a whole lot less spam than they do and I'm not touching this one.

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Or Maybe I Just Hate Old People

The entrance of digital tools into the 'art' realm causes all sorts of hysterical reactions from people who ought to know better or perhaps should have moved the panic button a few feet away from the television before spouting utter shit in dead tree magazines. Newsweek has an an article on the coming photo-pocalypse because the digital is apparently too easy, makes things like art less prohibitively expensive and lowers the price of experimentation, and doesn't speak in tongues to some shadowy god of nostalgia atop the majestic Art Is Here and Y'all Are Over There mountain. It would appear that this is the bad thing and too many of us are ostensibly doing it. Oh dear.

I should write a couple thousand words on that draw a dark conspiracy theory that overshadows fundamentalist Luddite aesthetics and the dead tree/smeared pigment industry but I'll spare everyone that including myself because 3 am is not the proper time to start an ulcer. What I do find interesting about much of this type of armchair elucidation is that it usually assumes that convincing photo alteration work in Photoshop is as easy as click-click-Grant-Dollars! and that anyone with a short attention span, a computer, and a fervent desire to immerse the mighty canon of high art in shit and garbage can produce, with little talent or knowledge, something that threatens the usual order of things.

I'm guessing that the intersection of art and technology is what is bugging Plagens here because other things he's written (this review that spans a whole lot of publicly funded art controversy in the process of talking about a book someone else wrote and seems (I'm no art critic) a lot more grounded as well as reading a whole lot less screechy) have the quality of serious thought and reflection being invested in them. It is probably a generational issue but, man, how little can you really understand about something that is building momentum and becoming more widely and wildly used and still be a critic worthy of readership? Especially when you spend a fair number of words in your own writing about the efforts of early photographers to make their own photographs less like photographs and more like painting. The connection between them doesn't seem like a huge stretch to me. Apparently the reading public is still cool with this. The most difficult part of this column for me is that Plagens often comes so damned close to getting the appeal of digital formats and manipulations to photographers. Then just staggers off down memory lane to leave the rest of us who've grown accustomed over the majority of our lives to the impermanence and fluidity of captured images to wonder what the fuck he's trying to get to underneath the landslide of anecdotes.

I'm sure there is more to this direction of criticism that I'm just not getting. There must be. This fella is no idiot but when I read that column I don't see the semi-hep art critic. I don't see anything. I just hear the sound of a ball mouse squealing as it is dragged across the surface of a fourteen inch CRT monitor. Does that make me a monster or did I just get whapped on the head during this bubble or the last one? I'm lost and don't understand what essential question he is asking here and why so many important aspects (like the idea of photography either being dedicated to or intended for the documentation of nothing but the truth) are being glossed over. I read it again and just threw my hands up in frustration. There is something out of joint here and I'm not willing to believe half truth in order to exhume it. Anyone?

The ironic side note is that I stumbled on this article while looking for something else and read it on the Newsweek website on December 5, 2007 when the article is from the Dec 10, 2007 issue. Ouch. Yep, when I said all of your base I meant it.

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Protecting The Stupid From The Greedy: All ‘Teh’s and ‘!!!!!111’s Intentional

That title is unnecessarily mean I suppose as nearly everyone has fallen for scam torrents at least once or twice. TorrentFreak is offering advice to help the unacquainted avoid the crap from torrent sites. Most of what they had to say about it should already be common knowledge but a lot of the new kids (you know, with the stuck shift keys) don't seem to assimilate new information. I'm guessing that the actual advice delivered will have a smaller impact than the TF folks anticipated.

The best bits of advice in the entire article hinge on one another: read the comments attached to torrent listings and make sure you're pulling torrents from sites that are either closed/invite only or not overrun by morons. Demonoid, the horribly missed and mourned torrent site, was great for this. People there would rip you apart for creating torrents with proprietary formats or dependent on the 'win an iPod by completing these twenty five offers' style schemes in order to weasel a password for file access.

<Waaay Off topic>I miss that site more than anyone could imagine especially since Marvel has apparently lost their collective fucking mind and decided to pursue sites like Zcult that probably did more grunt work promoting comics than a million cheesy conventions and signings could ever do. I had a list of books that I intended to subscribe to when I found a job (I just did) and now I'm feeling like I really shouldn't.</End meandering>.

All of the things mentioned should be adhered to religiously and usually are by folks who pirate responsibly. The kids will probably never learn. Be sure to check out the comments on the article, though, as they actually add a lot to the discussion. Moral of the story: read the fucking comments. Also, don't be excited by small file sizes as you're often downloading pure and unadulterated trojans, look both ways before crossing the street, and try not to run with scissors.

Completely Stupid But Funny And Tangentially Related

In a discussion about the much maligned Domplayer on TorrentFreak is probably the most hilarious comment I've ever read. It left me with tears rolling down my face and a stomach ache so I'll share the good/bad-ness:

I just downloaded dom player and then i was instructed to download that another thing so i did that and then i got this nice banner on my browser i had never seen before.. on google! so i clicked it and now my computer is making fuck sounds and my mouse cursor turned to dick and i can’t remove it, and worst of all.. my desktop background changed to gay porn and i cannot change it!!!!


Ah, that really is the good stuff...

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Unity At Any Cost

I'm assuming that most of the folks outraged over the ousting of Jeff Gerstmann haven't spent a lot of time looking at Gamespot's parent site. Cnet has never been much more than some text to fuel advertising banners and Gamespot was one of the few exceptions to the rampant douchebaggery that plagued the rest of the site. I really hope Jeff finds a spot elsewhere that doesn't sacrifice quality of content in hopes of scoring higher ad revenue. It is a shame but does allow me to remove yet another feed from the reader and a chance to rinse the bad taste out of my mouth. The bad publicity from this alone should undermine the credibility of the remainder of Gamespot and hopefully encourage other folks operating under the banner to look elsewhere for ad dollar trickle down.

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Grand Reopening…

Because I love the people I call friends and have precious little patience with nearly anyone else: Note To Myself is back up and running and I imagine that more visits will encourage Bob to sacrifice some of his scarce free moments of time to post again. He had some problems getting his old entries to import so it is indeed a new start which is kind of sad as I really liked much of what he wrote on the old one. Here's to new beginnings. Please drop by and say hi.

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